Reflection in the Water

dsc_2280Proverbs 27:19 (NIV)

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Thought for the Day:   How will we be a reflection of God’s love today?

I love taking pictures, and recently I have enjoyed taking pictures of nature where water has been present.  As I thought about the pictures, I realized that in every one of the pictures involving water, there was a reflection of something else in the water.  Some of the pictures reflected trees from across a lake, some reflected the sunrise on the water, and one of my favorite images is when there is a lighted cross that shines its light into the reflection.  Walking near Lakeshore Camp this weekend, I took a lot of pictures of birds, water, trees, and other natural things.  I wasn’t looking for the reflections that were present until later when I viewed the images.  What beauty shone through in those simple reflections in the water.

Today I read about the feelings that are shared in our world today about how bad things are in the world.  The writer wrote about the light that shines through the bad to show that there is still so much good in the world.  As I thought about that and then I thought about the reflections of beauty in the water, I was touched.  The things that are reflected in the water are not really physically in the water, but they are there in our sight to add beauty and good to our view.  Isn’t this how God is.  God stands tall and is with us all the time, but we cannot see His image. But can we?  He is in those trees on the other side of the water and He is in the sunset we see.  But, He is also in the reflection that comes into the water in the form of His children who reflect His love and mercy into the world.  When someone reaches out and helps someone in need, the reflection of God is there.  When someone goes into a dangerous place to save a stranger from harm, the reflection of God is there.  When someone shares a hug with a hurting or grieving friend, the reflection of God is there.  The reflections of God through His children are more beautiful than any photograph of water reflection anyone could ever take.  How will we show God’s reflection in how we live and what we do?

Prayer:   Father, thank you for the beauty You give us every day in the gift of nature.  Thank you for creating the reflection of Your love through your children who show Your love in the world each day.  Help us be a reflection of You to someone today.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Showing God to those around us.

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Swallowed Up in His Embrace

Psalms 145:13-16

The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.  The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food in due season.  Thou openest thy hand, thou satisfies the desire of every living thing.

Thought for the Day:   Enter into God’s embrace.

I remember as if was yesterday.  I heard the doorbell ring then a few minutes later I heard voices.  When I walked into our den in the parsonage of Lambuth Memorial United Methodist Church, I saw him as he hugged my mother.  Mr. W.T. had driven the distance from Camden to Jackson to come once again when my oldest brother passed away.  Mr. W.T. was the director of the Funeral Home in Camden, but more than that he was a great friend to our family.  My brother had passed away during the night as he lay in his bed in that parsonage, and Mr. W.T. had come to take him back to Camden for the funeral.  As I walked in and saw my mother, it looked as if she was swallowed up in his embrace.  I walked toward them and he took me into that embrace as well.  He was and is a man of great stature so when he embraced you, he “really” embraced you.   I remember that feeling of love and that feeling of certainty that he was going to take care of everything.  I remember the feeling of surety that he was going to take my brother’s body safely “home”.  Mr. W.T. was a great friend to my daddy, so he was the first and only person my daddy called to help take care of my brothers when they passed away.  He was the one who loved us so much that he would do anything to make sure everything was done right.

As I visited my precious Camden over the weekend, I stopped by to see Mr. W.T. and his wife, Sammie.  He has been fighting cancer for some time and I knew I could not leave town until I saw him.  Our visit was precious as he shared with me stories about his precious grandchildren as both have recently married and have begun great adventures.  I was able to share with him about the “cabin” adventure I had been on during the weekend.  But most of all, I felt that “swallowed embrace” as I felt over 33 years ago.  I felt his love.  Today, I think about that embrace of love, and I think about that embrace God is waiting to give us one day as we enter His kingdom.  As HUGE as Mr. W.T.’s swallowing embrace was on that morning, Jesus is waiting with open arms to swallow us into his love.  When I reflect on that more, I realize that Jesus is already here swallowing us in His love, we just have to walk into His arms.

Prayer:   Father, thank you for special memories of times we felt love so deep that it is permanently in our thoughts.  Lord, God, please let us see your arms in front of us waiting for us to enter for our embrace.  Help us know to enter where we will feel the love you want us to feel from you.  Thank you for special friends who are your arms when we need them.  You are an awesome God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Visiting special friends

Tear

1 John 4:7

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves in born of God, and knows God.

Thought for the Day:   Remember who loves you.

Continuing my thoughts about visiting the town, Camden, where I lived from fifth grade through my sophomore year in high school has been such a sweet time for me.  Before I began my drive home, I wanted to make a visit to a dear friend.  As a young person, I shared time in her home because I played and spent time with her daughter.  Later, after my friend got married and had a home of her own, I continued going back to visit with her parents.  The visit I made Sunday was so special and will have special meaning to me from now on.  My visit was with one of the sweetest ladies I have ever known.  Mrs. Doris lived next door to me when I was growing up and I spent time with her daughter, Stephanie.  On Sunday, I walked up her back steps (as I always did as a child) and knocked on the door.  I waited for a moment and did not get an answer.  I turned to look around the back yard and heard movement behind me.  I turned to see my dear friend, Stephanie, at the door.  She invited me in and I saw Mrs. Doris sitting in the recliner.  She had been in the hospital and was still very weak.  I hugged her and sat down to visit.  We talked for a while as we had a lot of catching up to do.  Time slipped away and I realized I had to leave.  Before I left, I asked her if I could pray for her.  That is something very unusual for me and I don’t easily do that…..but I felt in that moment the calling to do so.  I leaned down very near to her, took Stephanie’s hand, and began praying.  I do not remember what I prayed but I do remember feeling Mrs. Doris’ tear flowing down my cheek.  In that moment, I felt more love in the rawest form as that tear flowed down my face.  I didn’t realize how much I needed that love until I felt it.  Mrs. Doris loves me and I am known to her.  I love Mrs. Doris and Stephanie, and I know them.

There are those moments in life when it is obvious that the time is ordained by God.  God leads us and it is our choice whether we follow where He is leading.  As I shared time with these two precious ladies, I felt love from them and through them I felt love from God.  As I drove away, I knew I was loved and I knew I had just received a blessing.  As I drove away, I felt I had just stood on Holy Ground.

Prayer:   Father God, thank you for placing us in those moments in life where we feel loved.  You plan those moments for us where you can share your love with us.  Help us see where you are leading and help us to enter.  We bless you today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Visiting special friends

The Empty Urns

Ruth 1:16-17

But Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.  May the Lord do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.”

Thought for the Day:   God gives us friends to lean on.

Finishing my time in my beloved Camden, where I grew up, was difficult and I could have prolonged it for many more hours.  As I was past my original time of departure, I realized that I could not leave without doing a very important thing.  As my college roommate, Nancy, and I drove through the cemetery where my parents and both of my brothers are buried, she heard me sigh, “Uh, oh!”  She said, “What’s wrong?”, and I replied, “You are about to see what’s wrong!”  As we walked toward the graves, it was a very obvious sight, there were flowers on most of the graves surrounding theirs, so their empty urns stood out in our vision.  But it was worse than that…obviously some child had been at the cemetery and felt sorry that these graves had no flowers, so they put a single bud from other graves in each of the urns on my brothers’ graves.  I felt myself look at my mother’s grave and when I did, I could almost hear her giggle.  Out loud, I pointed at her grave and said, “Don’t you laugh at me!”  Nancy and I just laughed and I heard her say, “Oh, Honey, you really need to go get those flowers.”  What could have been a sad situation became a laughable moment as I heard my mother laugh and as I heard my Nancy joke about what we were experiencing.  And, on that day, God gave me another fun moment with my family and a special girl, Nancy, who was so loved by my parents and brothers.

Blessings come when we do not expect them, and God appears through those blessings.  When I texted my college roommate to see if she would come to church with me in Camden, I knew I would be blessed because she always brings me blessings.  However, I did not know that her presence with me in the cemetery on that day would help God in a very special way.  If I had gone to the cemetery by myself to see those empty flower urns, I would have been saddened by that image.  However, her presence lightened the situation to bring it to a laughable, fun moment with my family.  The six-hour drive back to my home would have been full of tears but instead that drive home was full of smiles.  Thank you, God, once again for Nancy.  She is a special gift and I am thankful.

Prayer:  God, thank you for special memories and thank you for people who help us through the hard times. You bless us each day with the gifts of friends and use them to bring us through our faith journey.  You are awesome, God, and we praise you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those remembering the past

God’s Natural Beauty

Job 12:7-10

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

Thought for the Day:   God brings us gifts of beauty all around us, take it in.

Walking through the woods and then beside the beautiful river brought soothing sounds and views.  As I walked the few hundred feet to the river, I heard the birds chirping, the water moving gently, the boat engines softly running and wind blowing in the trees.  As I neared the river edge, water fowl became disturbed and flew overhead bringing me to grab my camera as fast as I could to grab a memory of the moment.  As I made the decision to drive the distance to pack things from our family cabin, I had not thought of the peace God would give me through nature.  Since the cabin no longer has electricity or water, I stayed in another place closer to the water and right in the midst of God’s natural creation near the river.   As I awake this beautiful morning and sit on the patio to write, I realize that I have to leave to go home today and I have to leave this special place.  My heart yearns for another day of peace.  Our cabin is finished, as far as what I can do now, and I have an even bigger yearning to see my husband and my boys.  I will miss this place.

Today, I travel the 370 miles to reach my family.  As I drive, I will receive more nature gifts from God.  Today, I will drive through State of Tennessee and as I do I will drive through the midst of some of the most beautiful natural areas anywhere.   Today I will see colors in the changing of the seasons, I will see hills that are majestic in stature, and I will continue feeling God.  And at the end, I will drive into my driveway and meet my biggest and most special gift, my family.  God is here and God is there, and God is in every mile that I travel in between.

As I wrote that last sentence today, I looked out the screened porch to see the sun about to peek through the top of the trees.  I grabbed my camera, as I will, and took off almost running down to the river to take some pictures.  I have included a few at the beginning of my devotion today. 

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome!  You give us what we need when we need it, even when we don’t see it.  Thank you for nature, thank you for beauty, thank you for family, and thank you for your never ending and unconditional love.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Spending time in nature

Homecoming

John 15:16-17

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so thatwhatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  This I command you, to love one another.

Thought for the Day:   Remember those who were special to you earlier in life, and thank them.

Coming to my beloved Camden where I grew up is always special and sometimes emotional.  Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Homecoming Football game.  The sound of the crowd, the cheer that I remember from when I was young, the black and gold football uniforms, the cheerleaders with their black and gold pompoms, and homecoming royalty took me back over forty years.  When I first arrived, I saw and spoke to a dear friend and went to stand where I could watch for another sweet friend who was coming to the game.  After a couple of minutes, I realized that where I was standing was the same place I stood as I watched the games so many years ago, right in front of where the cheerleaders cheered….including my brother Ricky who sat cheering from his wheelchair.  What touched me the most, I think, were the three men I chatted with.  Bobby “Flash” Melton was the one who told me it was Homecoming and that I should come to the game.  We did not know each other except through my family when we lived here but he was very big in helping my brother, Ricky, find true happiness in working at the radio station sharing his love for sports.  He is a very special man to the town of Camden.  Jerry Stegall was much older than I when we lived here but I remember him very well as one who loved my family and my family loved him.  I remember him playing the guitar and singing in the most beautiful way.  He was probably the first person I ever saw play the guitar – maybe that is why I learned to play a few years later.  The third man I talked to was Dean Emerson.  I did not know him at all when we lived in Camden as he lived in a totally different place and he was much younger than I.  We met because his sister and I were college roommates.  But, Dean is now the pastor at Camden First United Methodist Church where my daddy was those many years ago.  He has become a great pastor and that “kid” from so many years ago is another great example of Christ.

I did not know when I entered the Camden Lion Stadium last night what was going to happen.  My personality almost turned me around many times as I got dressed, as I drove, as I parked, and as I walked to the gate.  I was nervous as I didn’t think I would know anyone.  But what a blessing to sit by my dear friend, Martha Holifield and her family and then to run into these three men.  Three men who I didn’t even know well, or didn’t know at all, were three who have become very special friends the last few years on Facebook, and who in their own way have touched my life in a huge way.  Three men who live with Jesus in their heart and they show Jesus through the way they live.  God has used them in a special way and it is remarkable that they were the ones I ran into during one High School Homecoming Game.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for unexpected meetings. You bring people together who need each other and you bring people together in interesting ways.  Thank you for Godly, faithful, people who show you to the world in spectacular ways.  You are awesome God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Remembering the past

The Main Reason I Teach

Galatians 3:26

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Thought for the Day:  Teach Children to Love Themselves and they will love others.

“I am a teacher.” What exactly does that mean? “I teach my children to excel on testing.” Is that the main reason I teach? “I teach my children to work together.” Is that the main reason I teach? “I teach my children to behave and listen to instructions.” Is that the main reason I teach? “I teach my children the skills for their grade level.” Is that the main reason I teach? I can honestly say that I can answer that each of these is “a reason” I teach, but the “main reason”? I can’t answer yes to that. It was thirty-two years ago that I went into my pastor’s office after a long youth trip and told him that I didn’t feel that youth directing was what I was called to do, but I told him that I didn’t know what I was going to do next. He looked at me and said, “You have a teaching certificate, go teach!” I very quickly got a position teaching and I worked hard in my first job as a teacher in a second/third grade split class. At that point, I honestly can say that I just survived. I hardly remember the names of those students and I wasn’t sure of why I was there. It took several years, but then I started sharing stories about my students with my mother, father, and then husband that always put a smile on my face. I loved my students. That day came when I truly began loving my students in a special way.

Today, as I go through my days in the classroom, I teach my students to prepare of testing, I teach them to work together, I teach them to behave and to listen, and I teach them the skills. However, none of those matter if they do not feel loved and feel good about themselves. During a school year, I take many pictures of my students having fun as they learn where at the end of the year, they can take home a scrapbook of the things they did in second grade and can keep the memory alive that they were loved and that someone believed in them. That is the “main reason” I teach.

Prayer:   Father God, thank you for children. Help us love our children and in that loving, teach them to love themselves and to feel good about their accomplishments.  You are awesome, God! Amen.

Prayer Focus: TEACHERS

Finding Your Quiet Place with God

Philippians 4:7-9

 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.

 Thought for the Day:   God answers prayers through those around us.

I have truly enjoyed my time recently taking my folding chair down by the creek to sit and pray.  It has become a place that, even having other houses nearby, gives me solitude and a feeling that it is just God and me in the midst of the running creek, blowing breeze, and scampering animals.   Needing to pray recently, I headed down with my chair and as I walked I immediately heard the hammering of nails as a roof was being replaced at one of the houses nearby.  I was disappointed as I realized I would not be able to be quiet with God in the way I wanted.  After sitting for a few minutes, my mind going a lot of directions, I kept going back to the sound of the hammer.  Then, I concentrated on God and prayed the words I wanted to Him.  After a few minutes, I opened my eyes and realized that as hammering continued at that house I had been lost in God.  My mind and heart completely blocked out that hammering for those few minutes.  The Spirit, I believe, blocked the sound where I could be in solitude with God.

In today’s world, it seems to get more difficult to find the time and place to pray.  The sounds tend to bring our minds to our modern place as we hear new sounds and wonder what they are, when we hear siren’s in the distance and wonder who is in need (I try to say a prayer for that person), or when we hear construction sounds nearby  and we can’t quite find our “Quiet Place”.  After that experience, I realized that if we really want to talk to God, we can even through those noises.  We sit, relax, close our eyes, and let the Spirit do the work of blocking the sound. Then, we can find ourselves in our “Quiet Place” with God where we can have deep conversation with Him.

Prayer:  God, thank You for surrounding us with your spirit to help us become quiet when we talk to You.  Help us to always know that when we talk to you that you are there and you will help us in our need to pray.  Be with us as we find our “Quiet Place” today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Your Quiet Place

God, Rain Your Peace Down on Me

Colossians 3:15-17

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thought for the Day:   God answers prayers through those around us.

There are those moments when you feel God is in your presence and it comes when you need it.  As I sat by our creek in the backyard yesterday morning praying for my day and praying for an interview last evening, I asked God to “rain His peace down on me.”  I mean, I put my hands in the air motioning with my fingers rain coming down.  As I did this, a text message appeared on my phone that said, “My prayer for you today is that you will feel the love and prayers of friends and family.  I pray the Holy Spirit will give you a feeling of peace and the right words to speak.  I pray you will feel Jesus sitting with you.  The LORD is in control!”  My eyes did a double take as I read her words because the timing could not have been closer to the words I was saying in prayer in that instant.  I responded to her immediately because I wanted her to know how her words brought God to me through her words.  As I went through the day, I felt more at peace and I felt that God had prepared me for the interview.  My hands went in the air as I sat in the car reminding me that God was raining his peace down on me, and I prayed before going in that God go before me and for Him to sit next to me through the interview.

Through these days of unknown, I have found that talking to God has been essential. In the morning, I pray and I find myself talking to Him as I go through the day.  I find myself occasionally yelling out for Him when I am upset or questioning why I am not seeing my wants and needs met.  I find myself crying out to Him when I get feel sad or unsure about something happening around me.  I praise Him when I feel His presence or when He speaks to me through a sermon or someone’s words.  As I have continued working through so many unknown situations in our lives at this time, I have truly felt closer to God than ever before.  Two days ago, I felt very alone and shared that with my husband.  Neither one of us knew what to do or to say except that we have faith in God….we question that faith sometimes….but we keep that faith in God.  As my friend wrote that text yesterday at that instant when my hands were over my head motioning for God to rain His peace down on me assures me, once again, that He is hearing me as I pray and talk to Him, and He loves me enough to bring peace to me when I pray for peace.

Prayer:  God, You are our Almighty Father and we praise You today.  Lord, thank you for loving us and for listening to our voices when we are in need.  Thank you for showing us through our friends and family that You are near.  Thank you for understanding that we need to see you clearly and for letting us see You through our friends. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those searching for peace

Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Thought for the Day:   Have faith in the unseen

“Walk by faith, not by sight…”  As I read scripture from my women’s devotional for Bible Study and as I read my Upper Room Devotion, I began reflecting on how I live.  I also reflected about how I pray.  My words in prayer include “God, I need to SEE Your hand in front of me leading me”, and “God, make your plan for me CLEAR.” The devotional words make me question myself and the way I always need to see the obvious and when I do not see things in a clear way, I become uncomfortable.  I realize in my spiritual heart and mind that God wants us to trust Him when we can see Him least, and He wants me to remember that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and He wants us to remember that leaning on Him is the way to feel freedom and peace.  In my human heart and mind, however, I tend to think everything lies on my shoulders and that I am the one who needs to make everything work.  I remember the heartaches of the past and how life changed drastically after each heartache.  I forget how God was with me during each of those times taking me where He wanted me to go.  Those places were always better than any place I would have gone on my own.  Why can’t I remember that?  Why do I always make things hard before I let God lead me?

“The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  I wake up, I pray, I read, I cry, I plan, and I do.  That is fact and that is real.  What should I do differently?  What should I look for in life?  I should truly and faithfully turn everything over to God to lead me into the unknown.  He has always shown His faithfulness in the unknown so why should I not trust that now.  Today, I pray that God will help me release the need to control everything that happens in my life and the life of my family.  Today, I pray that in that release, God will make His way plain in the wilderness of which I seem to be in the midst of.  That wilderness is of my own making but I trust God will lead me through.

Prayer:  God, You are our ever loving and ever knowing God.  You know our hearts and you love us anyway.  Help us find our way through the unknown circumstances of our lives and lead us to where You desire for us to go.  All praise to you this day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those living in unknown circumstances